RFP Rater: A Two-way
Procurement Mirror

The What

HSC’s RFP Rater is a procurement evaluation tool designed to aid nonprofit human services organizations and government agencies in understanding the risks and challenges inherent in government funding opportunities.  This online tool consists of 60 weighted questions that address criteria established by experienced nonprofit finance professionals.  The questions reflect an ideal solicitation—one that covers the full cost of service and sets awardees up for operational and financial success.

The Why

In New York, State and local government agencies rely heavily on nonprofit organizations to deliver a wide range of services that make our communities safer, more just, and more conducive to healthy living for everyone.  They engage nonprofit organizations through a rigorous procurement and contracting process.  Unfortunately, that process is not as efficient as it could be, and the resulting programs are usually underfunded, overregulated, and micromanaged.  Government agencies continue to issue high-risk solicitations, and for a variety of complex reasons, nonprofit organizations continue to respond to them and sign the risky contracts that ensue.  It is no coincidence that nearly one in five of New York City’s nonprofit human services organizations are insolvent.

The purpose of the RFP Rater is to strengthen New York’s human services delivery system by improving the way in which programs are designed and paid for.  By highlighting problematic practices, the RFP Rater will enable nonprofits to make well-informed decisions about City and State government solicitations based on criteria established by experienced nonprofit professionals.  At the same time, it will aid government agencies in recognizing areas for improvement in their procurements so that they can implement positive changes.

The How

HSC developed the RFP Rater through a collaborative process that involved a consultant with more than 30 years of experience in the nonprofit and government sectors, and a focus group of 15 experienced grants and contracts professionals from New York’s leading human services organizations.  The group developed a set of 60 questions that address government practices that have a significant impact on nonprofit operations and/or finances (e.g., “Does the RFP include a commitment to prompt payment?”  “Does the RFP allow the use of a federally approved indirect rate or allow a minimum of 15 percent overhead/indirect rate?”).  Each question is weighted, with answers being assigned a certain number of points that represent risk.   The answers that carry more points pose greater risk.

Using the City’s Procurement Roadmap and the New York State Contracts Reporter, and with input from our Procurement Reform Workgroup, our Senior Policy Analyst identifies RFPs to rate.  She consults with subject matter experts for each rating to ensure the accuracy of the scores.  Scores are automatically calculated by the proprietary rater platform based on the answers to the 60 questions, and they are published on this site.

Conclusion

The RFP Rater serves as a two-way mirror for the nonprofit sector and government.  It allows nonprofit organizations to understand the risks inherent in the funding opportunities they pursue.  This may result in their forgoing opportunities, negotiating from a better informed position, or putting in place clear plans for mitigating the associated risks.  At the same time, the rater challenges government agencies to make human services procurement less risky and more conducive to high-quality delivery.